|The Brit, The Britannia|
|Full name||bet365 Stadium|
|Former names||Britannia Stadium (1997–2016)|
|Location||Stanley Matthews Way
|Capacity||27,902 (reduced from 28,387 due to segregation)|
|Field size||105 by 68 metres (115 by 74 yd)|
|Opened||30 August 1997|
|Construction cost||£14.7 million|
|Stoke City (1997–present)|
The bet365 Stadium is an all-seater football stadium in Stoke-on-Trent, England and the home of Premier League club Stoke City. The stadium was previously called the Britannia Stadium but was renamed on 1 June 2016 when the club entered into a new stadium-naming rights agreement with its parent company, bet365. It has space for 27,902 spectators (reduced from 28,387 due to segregation) with expansions plans announced by the club.
The stadium was built in 1997 at a cost of £14.7 million as a replacement for the Victoria Ground. The highest attendance recorded at the stadium was 28,218 for the sell-out fixture against Everton in their FA Cup 3rd Round tie in 2002. Former player Sir Stanley Matthews' ashes were buried beneath the centre circle of the pitch following his death in February 2000; he had officially opened the stadium on 30 August 1997. In European competitions it is known as the Stoke Stadium due to UEFA regulations on sponsorship.
The all-seater stadium cost nearly £15 million to build and brought the club up to standards with the Taylor Report of January 1990 to end 119 years at the Victoria Ground. Relocation had been considered by 1994 and by early 1996 the decision to build a new stadium had been confirmed.
By early 1997, the skeletal steel superstructure was in place and the stadium began to take shape. In August 1997 it opened its doors for the first time as the Britannia Stadium thanks to a £1 million, 10-year sponsorship deal with the Britannia Building Society which was instrumental in the overall funding of the project. Another £3 million was given as a grant by the Football Trust.
The stadium's opening did not go according to plan, as from the outset there was concern about getting there, as the plans covered only one access road from the nearby A50, and as a result spectators arriving from the City or the motorway had to travel up the A50 for over a mile to a roundabout at Sideway and double-back the other way, which caused huge congestion. The stadium was officially opened made by club legend Sir Stanley Matthews, then aged 82. After he died in February 2000, his ashes where buried beneath the stadium's centre circle and a statue showing different stages of his career was put up in his honour outside the ground. On 27 August 1997, Rochdale were the visitors for the historic first-ever competitive match a 1–1 draw in the League Cup watched by 15,439 - and four days later the first-ever league game took place against Swindon Town before a crowd of 23,859. The first season at the new ground was a bad one as Stoke were relegated from Division One and the supporters protested against chairman Peter Coates.
Four seasons of third tier football followed with Gunnar Gíslason taking control of the club in November 1999. In May 2006 he sold control of the club back to Peter Coates, and soon after the Club obtained full ownership of the stadium in a deal worth £6 million following the previous joint-partnership with the Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Stoke-on-Trent Regeneration Ltd. The name of the ground was changed to the Bet365 Stadium in June 2016.
Structure and facilities
|Boothen End sponsored by Novus||North||6,006|
|DPD Stand + Family Area||East||8,789|
|The Sharp Stand||South||4,996|
In total, the stadium cost £14.7million and took around ten months to construct on the former site of Stafford No.2 Colliery, which had been closed in 1969. Building work began in late autumn 1996 and was completed in August 1997. The all-seater stadium can hold 28,384 supporters in four cantilever stands. The main West stand consists of two tiers of seating which house 7,357 spectators, plus all of the stadiums corporate and media facilities. The L-shaped Boothen and East stands hold 6,006 and 8,789 people respectively. The South Stand, which is used by both home and away supporters can hold 4,996 people but is unlikely to reach capacity due to spectator segregation. The club's dressing rooms, offices, boardroom, ticket office and club store are positioned between the West and South stands.
In 2006, work took place on the A50 to allow direct access to the stadium from the eastbound direction, involving building a bridge across the road. It is close to the Sideway junction with the A500. At the start of the 2010–11 season, the stadium was accessible via a new underpass under Stanley Matthews Way, to reduce traffic problems with exiting the area back onto the A50.
In the middle of 2009, surveyors were asked to investigate the feasibility of filling in one and possibly two of the stadium's open corners. Filling in a corner of the ground would cost approximately £3 million, increasing capacity by around 3,000 seats and taking the total capacity to over 30,000. In November 2009, chairman Peter Coates said that a decision on expansion would be made at the end of the season and was dependent on the club's Premier League survival.
In February 2010, the club were still considering whether to expand the 27,500 capacity by filling in the scoreboard corner between the South and East stands. Chief Executive Tony Scholes cautioned that expansion might jeopardise the atmosphere at the stadium, one of the factors credited with Stoke City's resurgence in the top tier of English football. "The big risk when anyone expands their stadium is that they could lose that 'sell-out' factor, which would have an impact on the atmosphere. I would loathe to give that up." At the end of the 2009–10 season, Peter Coates indicated that the club would wait at least another 12 months before deciding whether to spend up to £6 million on expanding the stadium, saying: "You don't do these things lightly. It is on the drawing board and is something we will consider. But we want to feel confident we can justify it in terms of getting the increased capacity, filling it and it making economic sense." Plans to increase the stadium's capacity to over 30,000 were unveiled in November 2012. By June 2014 work had not started, and the club CEO, Tony Scholes, stated that the club were in no rush to expand the stadium. In April 2016 plans were again revealed for stadium expansion, with a stated completion to be in time for the beginning of the 2017–18 season.
The stadium also has full conference, banqueting and events facilities and has, as well as football, also staged firework displays and music concerts. The likes of Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, Busted, Elton John and Rod Stewart have all played out on the pitch at the ground in addition to the numerous summer music concerts.
The stadium hosted the 2002–03, 2003–04 and 2004–05 playoff finals for the Conference National and on April 16, 2002, it hosted England’s under-21’s international friendly against Portugal’s under-21’s. The hosts lost 1–0 with 28,000 in attendance. England U20s and 19s have also used the stadium.
The stadium was originally owned jointly by Stoke City F.C., Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Stoke-on-Trent Regeneration Ltd. However, in December 2007 Stoke City F.C. announced that they had agreed a deal to buy the shares in the stadium from Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Stoke-on-Trent Regeneration for £6 million, giving them full ownership.
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